Long Strike Vexing Late Show Bookers

Dec 9, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Not everyone working on the late-night shows has been idled by the writers strike that started Nov. 5.
The booking goes on. So does the unbooking, as yet another day passes without a resolution of the standoff between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers.
The late-night shows were the first to be zapped into reruns and will be the first to return to the air with original programs.
Sources who do not wish to be identified but who are familiar with the late-night front say most of those programs likely could be back with new shows a day or two after a settlement announcement offering everything viewers expect, from topical jokes to must-see guests.
That means they must maintain fully booked lineups featuring guests they know will be available, or at least be in constant communication with the representatives of those stars, sometimes from home, sometimes in their offices.
For the producers and bookers performing this task, the book-’em, unbook-’em cycle is proving frustrating—some of the shows had finally wangled some long-sought-after stars only to lose the booking as the strike lingered on—and even debilitating. “They’re wiped,” is one person’s description.
At the beginning of the strike, the late shows posted a week’s worth of reruns at a time. Recently, some have begun releasing their plans a day or two at a time. (Also in strike-induced limbo are holiday parties.)
NBC’s Carson Daly took heat from the Writers Guild for putting “Last Call” back into production and returning to the air last week.
“It’s good to see the batteries in the applause sign still work after a month,” Mr. Daly said on his first night back. After joking that his show, the smallest and latest of all the late-night vehicles, had run out of repeats, he turned more serious.
“If I had not been back on the air tonight, 75 members of my loyal staff and crew were going to get laid off—that’s really the only reason. These are people that are in this room, they’re people that when we moved this show from New York to L.A. uprooted their lives, moved their families all out of loyalty to me. And when the challenge was put in front of me, which was a very simple ultimatum if you will, you either come back or they’re laid off, I said let’s turn the lights on. I’m going to come back, it’s that simple, and that’s why I’m back tonight,” Mr. Carson said.
He is not a WGA member. His higher-profile, better-paid counterparts are.
Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Kimmel are paying non-striking staffers of NBC’s “Tonight Show” and “Late Night” and ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” David Letterman’s Worldwide Pants is doing the same through the first of the year for CBS’ “Late Show” and “The Late Late Show.” Comedy Central continues to pay non-writers who work for “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report.”
No one wants to talk about how long such largess, which some estimates put at a quarter million dollars per week on the bigger shows, can continue.
In the meantime, the bookers and producers laboring over contingency shows audiences may never see, are earning their strike pay.
Click here for complete coverage of the strike.

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